Sarah Sils: Breaking down barriers for girls to build confident future leaders

Year: 2018 – Province: Ontario

Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence in STEM

Sarah Sils

St. Mildred's-Lightbourn School
1080 Linbrook Road
Oakville, ON L6J 2L1

School telephone: 905-845-2386
School website:
Twitter: @frc771

Subjects and grades taught: Math and Science, Grade 8

Sarah Sils has spent a decade embedding STEM fundamentals throughout the curriculum at this private day school for girls. She has an unwavering commitment to young girls—educating and empowering them, breaking down barriers and building future leaders.

Teaching approach

Sarah brings a refreshing, comforting and positive attitude to the girls, encouraging them to collaborate, engage with others, take risks, learn something new and not focus on an unattainable goal of perfection.

STEM in the Classroom

  • Introduced robotics, coding and programming, design and computational thinking into the curriculum: students learn STEM fundamentals, develop collaboration, critical-thinking, problem-solving and leadership skills, and build confidence
  • Encourages students to use everyday materials in creative ways, shares her engineering focus, and translates complexity into simplicity: with this direction, students create, for example, health and beauty products, while learning the fundamentals of chemical engineering and entrepreneurship
  • Designed the school's FIRST robotics programs so girls in every grade have access to it and senior girls have opportunities to share their knowledge with younger students

Outstanding achievements

  • Is STEM Innovation Lead at school and Lead Mentor to Canada's first all-girls FIRST Robotics team, St. Mildred's Women Advancing Technology (SWAT) 771; in 2018, the team is hosting an all-girls team from Afghanistan, with the two teams building a robot together and participating in competitions
  • Every graduating member of the 2014 and 2015 SWAT 771 teams went on to post-secondary education in a STEM field
  • Instrumental in organizing student outreach activities: robotics team members have visited and shared their knowledge with students who might not otherwise be exposed to robotics and STEM, such as those at schools for the blind and deaf, and those with learning disabilities

Rave reviews

"Sarah invites her students, every day, into a learning environment where the challenges, problems and questions posed are so compelling that her students cannot help but to seek solutions."

Parent, colleague and robotics team mentor